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Richard Delancey series

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Richard Delancey series Empty Richard Delancey series

Post by Astrodene Mon 25 Aug 2008, 10:21

I enjoyed reading this series, basing the hero in Guernsey was good, and I enjoyed the books 'The Fireship' as it gave an insight into this type of vessel and 'So Near, So Far' for the information on early steamships (of all things!).


Last edited by Astrodene on Sun 25 Oct 2009, 12:18; edited 1 time in total

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Post by reb01501 Fri 19 Dec 2008, 19:10

I read this series a while ago, but for the life of me, I cannot remember too much about it. I do remember wishing for more, so it did hold my interest ...
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Post by Alaric Bond Sat 20 Dec 2008, 09:08

HNP also wrote a very entertaining "biography" of Hornblower. It was basically "life in the Georgian Navy" intermixed with Hornblower's story, continuing after C S Forester left off, and even including an account of his and Lady B's "death".
I bought a copy in the seventies, and was rather taken aback, as he seemed to be criticising CSF's work quite a bit, pointing out the errors and mistakes in the Hornblower books. I did my usual trick of lending and losing my copy. When I bought another, some years later, and in a far more impressive edition, these "snipes" had gone, replaced by a far more sympathetic text.

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Richard Delancey series Empty Parkinson's Delancey series

Post by pauljm Sun 19 Jul 2020, 17:14

My pandemic project of reading my way through some of the older classic HNF authors is progressing reasonably well. I have now finished the six titles in C. Northcote Parkinson’s ‘Delancey’ series, published between 1973 and 1982. Parkinson was a well-respected naval historian—his books on the naval and merchant activity in the Indian Ocean during the Napoleonic Wars are still standard references, even 70 years later. He was also the creator of ‘Parkinson’s Law’ (Work expands to fill the time allotted) and several other amusing aphorisms concerning bureaucracy.

The novels trace the (rather chequered) career of Richard Delancey, a Guernseyman of little fortune, but with some illustrious ancestors. Unfortunately, when we first meet him (in the book published last, The Guernseyman), he is very young, penniless and friendless. Nevertheless through a combination of intelligence and belief in himself, he makes his way in both the Royal Navy and as a privateer, emerging at the end of the novel cycle as a post captain with some prospects for a good command. The series ends fairly abruptly in 1805, leaving the reader with the sense that more adventures might have been intended, but Parkinson (who died in 1993) never got around to writing them.

Naturally, the plots are well-founded in real historical events, and the naval details are appropriate and accurate, although Parkinson does let a couple of minor errors slip through. Delancey’s adventures involve him in the Great Mutiny of 1797, the Battle of Camperdown, the 1798 Rising in Ireland, the Battle of Algeçiras in 1801, and operations against the French invasion flotilla, including an encounter with Robert Fulton. Perhaps surprisingly, only one of the books takes place in the Indian Ocean (Parkinson’s particular area of expertise) and in some ways I found this the least satisfying of the plots. Each book includes several useful maps to help the reader follow the action.

While the plots of the books are mostly well-thought out, the characters are pretty one-dimensional. Delancey himself is something of a ‘man alone’ in the Hornblower style, but far more confident of his own abilities despite the various obstacles in his way. The other fictional characters are not memorable, however there are nice sketches of the personalities of various real individuals, presumably based on Parkinson’s deep knowledge of the period. Occasionally, the historian comes to the fore, and the narrative suddenly pulls back to give some general view of events, which only a modern observer could know. To my mind this undercuts the continuing suspension of disbelief necessary to remain immersed in a fictional narrative, and distances the reader from the characters. Overall I found the stories to be interesting, but the characters less so, and the books seemed a little cool and lacking in emotion. In fact they are pretty much what you would expect a talented historian inspired by Forester’s work (he created a very convincing fictional biography of Horatio Hornblower) to write.
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